We are in the first month of Wisconsin’s Open Enrollment period. Open enrollment is when a student attends a public school in a district other than the one in which he/she lives. In Wisconsin, parents need to apply to have their child attend a different school district. The application process is only available for a certain period of time in Wisconsin. This year, in 2015, the Wisconsin Open Enrollment period is February 2-April 30 at 4:00 p.m. Students eligible for 4K through grade 12 are candidates for open enrollment. Open enrollment includes brick and mortar schools (regular schools) and virtual charter schools.
Why am I writing about open enrollment? For many gifted students their local school district does not provide appropriate educational opportunities. Students may not have the rigor they need. There might not be activities or classes in areas of strength or interest. Teachers may not be willing or able to provide instruction appropriate for a gifted learner. Parents may have exhausted all avenues of resources within their local school district and feel there is nothing left to pursue to attempt to meet the needs of their child other than going to a different school district.
Why would a parent consider a virtual charter school? The same reasons above apply here.
Students may be overwhelmed by school, or need the freedom to learn at their fast-paced rate of speed. They may have special interests that take them away from a brick and mortar classroom too much given the strict attendance policies of school districts. These students may be athletes, musicians, equestrians, actors, or other specialized individuals. Virtual school allows them to travel to athletic events such as Olympic work-ups, a national or international concert or competition schedule, equestrian competitions around the country, or acting jobs around the globe. Going to school via a virtual school means that they can ‘do’ school any place, and nearly any time. Some students just need the quiet down time of learning at home. Students in a public virtual charter school have licensed teachers and many opportunities only available in this type of school setting.
I’ve seen gifted children thrive as an open enrolled student in a neighboring or far away brick and mortar school, and in virtual schools. The benefits are many if the local school district does not meet the child’s needs. How does a parent go about making this important decision? First visit the WI DPI website on open enrollment listed below. Read all the information. If you are interested in applying to another school district make sure you visit the schools, talk to the teachers, administration, people in the gifted department. Visit classrooms when school is in session. Talk to parents of children already in the school district and to the students themselves. Ask lots of questions about the programming, course offerings and selection, longevity of the gifted program, and future plans for the gifted program. For a virtual school do all of the same things. Ask to visit a virtual class online to see how it works. Have your child there with you. Talking to parents, students, and teachers is important to get a feel for how much time virtual school takes in real life. Ask how the school meets the needs of gifted learners and what their philosophy is for gifted learners. Both types of schools often host open enrollment parent information meetings in the evenings to showcase what they have to offer open enrolled students. Attend those meetings. You will meet and hear the faculty and staff of the school and generally meet students and parents from the school and/or district.
The decision to move a child from the local school district is not generally an easy one to make. Parents often second-guess themselves. If you live in an area where open enrollment is common due to a large employer and parents want their children close to their work, it is often an easier decision than when considering moving a child because the current situation has gone awry. The decision to move to a virtual charter school is often even more daunting. One parent must be at home to monitor virtual schooling, and that is a big sacrifice for many families. Regardless of which type of school a parent is considering the decision is complex because that is admitting that the local school district is not meeting the needs of all of their students. Once this has been acknowledged, the process becomes smoother.
There are a few things parents need to know about open enrollment. These are listed on the DPI website and should be useful for parents to know about. In order to open enroll in another school district the resident district (where the student is coming from) must approve the transfer out, and the non-resident school district (where the student is going to) must approve the transfer in. There are some special requirements for 4K, 5K, and kindergarten; special education students; and a few other groups of students. This is all listed on the DPI website. There is an application on the DPI website that parents must complete. There are also important dates regarding application and notification.
I encourage any parent who is interested to learn more about open enrollment options for their child. If you have any doubt, but wonder if it would work, you may apply and make the final decision at a later date. Applications are due by 4:00 p.m. on April 30, 2015. The school district you apply to must let you know of acceptance or denial by June 5, 2015. Your local school district must inform you of their decision to allow or deny the open enrollment by June 12, 2015. Remember, both school districts must approve the change. Parents have until June 26, 2015 to inform the school districts of their decision. That means that parents may apply for open enrollment now, during the limited application period, and make the final decision by the end of June. This gives families time to consider this option. However, if you miss the application timeframe, you have no other choices. Many families apply for open enrollment and then decide in late June to stay in their resident school district. Others accept the offer of open enrollment.
There are many parents who made the decision to open enroll their gifted student(s) for any number of reasons, including this writer. It is worth considering, but the decision to apply is ultimately yours alone. You know what is best for your family.
WI DPI Public School Open Enrollment
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